Server Vaults Ride Wave of Heightened Security Demands

Hugh Smith
August 18, 2005 — 1,488 views  
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To an observer of Information Technology, it is a confusing world of mixed signals and false directions. From the information technology gurus, we see increased speed with new Blade Servers, high-speed fiber and ultra-high density media cartridges. To those who develop computer hardware and data centers the focus seems to be preoccupied only with speed and density. Failed back-ups, all-too-fragile media and stolen information are the constant headlines in the industry.

To the consumer, it appears that the IT community has totally lost control of information assets with identity theft issues a daily headline. The astute IT Manager must deal with this new threat even as executive management comes to grips with compliance with Sarbanes Oxley Legislation that severely punishes top management for loss or destruction of media. Spoliation of media was a frequent occurrence for data processing operations, but now it is viewed as a criminal offense with prison terms for managers, fines for the corporation and a loss of prestige and stock value to further compound the effect of faulty management control.  In the 2003-04 fiscal years, the SEC levied $4 billion in fines against companies, and continued pressure is being placed on organizations to implement effective access control to user accounts, passwords and overall network security. Financial institutions have the added burden of regulations under Graham Leach Bliley Legislation to force them to protect their financial records and information assets.

So as the IT equipment designers move forward with plans for even more fragile platforms and media that stores information edge trim to edge trim, the IT Managers or Chief Security Officers have developed their own solutions to protect the information processing and media assets within their organizations.

Due to the decreased size of the Server Rooms or Data Centers, it is now possible to vault the entire operation for a minimal cost increase over old style data centers. Imagine placing the data center into its own secure data safe.  That is exactly what is occurring around the world.

“The dramatic growth in Server Vaulting is spurred by recent legislation that makes loss of computer data a criminal offense, but the real impetus is due to the criminal element’s recognition of the market value of large blocks of data. Financial data, credit information and even health records have achieved commodity value due to the ease of marketing them over the Internet. Encryption does not prevent theft when employees have ease of access to the information hubs. The low incremental cost of adding vaulting to the server environment is worth the investment to the new breed of Chief Security Officers looking for effective security solutions for the organization,” says Hugh Smith, director of marketing for FIRELOCK Fireproof Vaults.

Modular fireproof vaults systems with Class 125 Fire Ratings assemble around the Server Room to create the Server Vault. These high tech environments improve on the efficiency and security of the Server Room in every way.  Secure Vault Doors limit access to the vault with combination locks and Biometric Security Devices to limit the personnel that may enter this environment. The Server Vault itself is magnetically shielded, Zone IV Seismic Rated and complete with vapor barriers to protect the Server Vault from any and all threats.

In a world where Identity Theft is currently the easiest and most profitable crime opportunity, controlling access to the main hive of information assets is critical to the overall security of the organization. Digital Video Security and motion detecting security sensors monitor every entrance to the Server Vault, providing a visual trail of individuals who have access and their activities inside the Information Hub of the organization.

A dual control security chamber has now replaced the security guard at the pass through window and entrance leading into the data center. However, the change in security is more than just switching manual operations to automated and passive restraints. A Server Vault will ensure the data center will survive a myriad of threats so that disaster recovery is not just a plan to attempt to recover but also an approach to create disaster prevention barriers that increase the probability of intact survival.

These cutting edge Server Vaults are designed to operate like NASCAR drivers arriving at the crew pit for new parts. Cable trays and wire management systems allow for instantaneous change-out of older equipment to new equipment.  Raised computer floors are a thing of the past. Drop ceilings also are eliminated. These changes minimize dust problems and particulate contamination within the chamber. The Server Vault’s vapor barrier and flat, clean wall and ceiling surfaces allow for removal of dust through a continually circulating HEPA filter system.  Data Center Maintenance (DCM) is much easier without the problems created by raised floors and dust collecting plenums.

Fiber and power circuits run overhead in Uni-Mount Ceilings where everything is exposed for fast and clean changeover during equipment upgrades. Special cable trays similar to those used in the nuclear industry deliver wire trays into the vault with no risk to the fireproof design of the Vault.

The spring clip system in the Uni-Mount Ceiling allows for relocation or reconfiguration of the Servers and Hardware to allow for constant upgrades of the technology or even a total relocation to a new site.

According to Richard Nieman, President of Modular Protection, “The use of cutting edge Server Vaults creates the optimum condition for low density and environmentally friendly suppression agents such as NOVEC. A concentration of only 4.2% is all that is required in these vapor-tight designs, and the “Zero Residue” and high dielectric strength make it the ideal agent for a computer environment. In addition, the No Observable Adverse Effects Level (NOAEL) rating is attributed to the low level at which it is effective, making it the safest system to use in vault environments.

Environmental systems operate in two-stage mode with backup cooling to assure that the high temperature Blade Servers will always have adequate cooling. UPS Units are strategically located to keep the Server Vault online in any threat mode.

Server Vault electronic watchdogs monitor temperature, humidity, alarm status and air flow and automatically alert managers of a crisis situation. Should an event occur where air conditioning performance is out of specification or the fire alarm is triggered, the Server Vault will make a call to a cell phone or PDA with an email description of the event. Digital cameras will allow remote monitoring to view status at any time.  The speed at which the IT manager becomes involved in hands on management of the alarm event is critical to preventing a larger scale problem.

Media Vaulting technology has also swept across the offsite data storage industry as a nationwide network of high security and media rated vault operators provide Class 125 Vaults for storing the media that is rotated offsite.

At a time where management is under duress to provide the ultimate in security for their IT systems and offsite data storage, the storage industry has delivered a cutting edge answer that reflects the security interests of executive management and the CIO and CSO. Todd Smith of IG2 Data Security in Chicago states, “We provide the Chicago market a secure Class 125 Data Safe Vault to protect the client’s media from a variety of threats. We take an entirely different approach than the big box national companies. We store only computer media, and all the client’s vital media is stored in a Class 125 Media Vault Environment with magnetic shielding and precise environmental control to extend the life of the media while in our care.” 

According to Marvin Parker of Docusafe in Princeton, NJ, “This approach is developing worldwide as over 60 different centers use this technology. Promoted under a branding name of FAN Club, our network of high security data vaults is meeting the needs of thousands of security conscious IT clients across the world. Clients in New York City protect their data in our media storage vaults to increase their security as well as for the hands-on management style of a company dedicated to idealized media security.”

Illinois is the most recent state to pass legislation protecting consumers from Identity Theft with their Personal Information Protection Act, which has many of the same requirements of public disclosures of lost information assets as the California Act.  California was the leader in this legislation and the cause of many of the public disclosures to date of Identity Theft. These personal privacy laws make the entity that lost the information liable if they do not disclose in 45 days that the information has been compromised. These breaches in security can create enormous liability as well as embarrassment for the entity that failed to protect the information assets.

Protecting the information is proving to be far more efficient than the resultant effects of security breaches, liability for lost media and the resultant loss in stock value. IT Managers and corporate executives now realize that the preferred solution is secure environments on site. This solution, in conjunction with well-managed media vaults for offsite storage will provide the security and peace of mind that will satisfy the Chief Security Officer, the Risk Manager and the Auditors in this trying time for information security.

Michael Coakley, President of Coakley Data Storage, added, “Offering our market area the ultimate in Media and Server Vaulting has not only benefited the individual client but has enhanced the Milwaukee Area’s ability to attract high tech companies and research organizations to our community. Our goal will always be to provide superior technology and security to appeal to the IT Professionals that are constantly seeking new advantages for their centers.”

Hugh Smith